Film review: 22 Jump Street's lowbrow humour appeals to fans of frat boy comedies
22 JUMP STREET
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
This film is like a really good salesman: you know he's pushing a product you don't particularly want, but the guy is so likeable and honest that you don't mind the canned sales pitch and the disposable goods.
Unafraid to poke fun at its own opportunistic raison d'etre, this sequel disarms critics by beating them to the punch in dissing itself.
As they have demonstrated with The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller aim to set a new standard in self-referential laughs.
They're carving out a comedy niche that is ironic and self-aware but not entirely Airplane! scatological — though there is a Benny Hill reference that is totally unexpected.
Part of the joke is 22 Jump Street's formulaic strategy to replicate the first Jump Street movie in its entirety. The new film has its goofball cop buddies, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), on a similar but different undercover assignment: they've enrolled at a college, not a high school, to track down a drug dealer.
It might be an unnecessary sequel to an unwanted movie based on an unremarkable '80s television series, but its filmmakers have put up a clever "buyer beware" warning. "It's never as good the second time around," the duo's tongue-in-cheek superiors (Nick Offerman and Ice Cube) caution about working together.
They add that no one cared about their original Jump Street "investigation", but as it was successful, the department doubled their budget and now expect them to be twice as successful.
Beyond the self-deprecating subtext, it's primarily bromance humour, dick jokes and gay sex innuendoes. If you like that kind of stuff, 22 Jump Street is hilarious. Tatum and Hill are enjoyable performers, and they never wink at the camera.
Tatum eases into his frat boy cover and has a knack for physical comedy. As for Hill, his career is all about mastering the idiosyncrasies of insecure manchild characters with obsessive tendencies.
Mostly, the drug case is secondary to the break-up and make-up rom-com conventions of the two men's partnership. Jenko gravitates to the rowdy parties of the jocks on campus, while Schmidt is left out of the cool clique, and hooks up with an art major hottie.
But the serious romance and jokes are entirely homoerotic. At one point, a bad guy mistakenly thinks that Jenko is performing oral sex on another man, but the undercover cop only decides to stand up to the thug after he uses the "F" word. That is progress, perhaps?
The film also has a nice performance from an attitude-laden Ice Cube. But the cleverest bit is the end credits, which hint at what the filmmakers have in mind for future Jump Street adventures in learning institutions like ballet schools and religious seminaries.
Yeah, they are ridiculous, but since the filmmakers already apologise for them in advance, it's okay to look forward, right?
22 Jump Street opens on August 28